After wave of resignations, Shawnee Mission announces big changes to special education department

Director of Special Education Jackie Chatman (left) will be stepping into an assistant role next year.

The Shawnee Mission School District will reorganize the structure of its special education department for the coming school year and current director Jackie Chatman will step into an assistant director role, the administration announced late Friday.

The move comes after a year in which questions about the operation of Shawnee Mission’s special education department prompted an investigation by the Kansas State Department of Education. That investigation, concluded in December, found that the district had been out of compliance with state regulations in several instances, though it did not find evidence of systemic problems that intentionally deprived students in need from services.

The special education department has also seen the exit of several teachers and coordinators over the past two years, with many leaving Shawnee Mission for neighboring districts in Johnson County despite those positions offering lower pay. Three of the four special education coordinators on staff this school year, for example, have now resigned. (The board of education is set to approve the resignations of SPED coordinators Anjanette Tolman and Sherry Dumolien as part of its human resources agenda tonight). Special education staff have reported concerns with growing caseloads and being asked to provide services for which they are not credentialed.

The announcement issued by the district said that Chatman plans to retire from Shawnee Mission on June 30, 2019 — precisely five years after she assumed a role with the district, making her fully vested in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System plan.

Chatman will step into a new role next year: assistant director of special education — a position that doesn’t currently exist. As part of the transition, the department is being reorganized for the 2018-19 school year. Instead of the current structure, which has a director, two secondary coordinators, two elementary coordinators and an administrative intern, the department will now have:

  • A director
  • An assistant director (the position Chatman will take until she retires)
  • A secondary coordinator
  • An elementary coordinator
  • Two associate coordinators

“A succession plan for leadership and departmental reorganization was made possible due to several recent resignations in the Special Education Department,” read the district’s announcement. “The reorganization allows the director to take a more system-wide approach to leading Shawnee Mission’s Special Education Department. The assistant director will provide consistent direct support and supervision to itinerant staff, specialized programs and other support staff across the district. Coordinators and associate coordinators will support building administration and the special education teams in the buildings.”

The reorganization will be cost neutral, according to the district. Chatman will be taking a $15,000 pay cut moving from the director position into the assistant director position. She was paid $137,935 last year, according to Kansas OpenGov’s public employee compensation database.

The district posted an opening for a new director of special education on Friday. The special education department also sent out a survey to parents of students in SPED programs on Friday asking for input.

“Dr. Mike Fulton, who assumes duties as superintendent on July 1, 2018, will be part of the selection process and give final approval to hiring the new director,” the district said in a statement.